Main Engine Cut Off

Episode T+172: Lunar Politics

Last week, IAC 2020 brought a flurry of announcements and statements to digest. It’s a good time to check in on current and future lunar politics, with some statements by the ever-antagonistic Rogozin, seven countries signing onto the Artemis Accords, a handful of lunar development contracts announced, and the US election within sight.

This episode of Main Engine Cut Off is brought to you by 38 executive producers—Brandon, Matthew, Simon, Lauren, Melissa, Kris, Pat, Matt, Jorge, Ryan, Nadim, Donald, Lee, Chris, Warren, Bob, Russell, John, Moritz, Joel, Jan, Grant, David, Joonas, Robb, Tim Dodd (the Everyday Astronaut!), Frank, Julian and Lars from Agile Space, Tommy, Adam, and seven anonymous—and 414 other supporters.

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Episode T+171: SpaceX, L3Harris Selected by SDA for Missile Warning Satellites

The Space Development Agency has selected L3Harris and SpaceX to produce satellites for a missile warning constellation. I break down the details of the SDA project, the technical aspects, and what it means to see SpaceX enter the world of satellite manufacturing and sales.

This episode of Main Engine Cut Off is brought to you by 38 executive producers—Brandon, Matthew, Simon, Lauren, Melissa, Kris, Pat, Matt, Jorge, Ryan, Nadim, Donald, Lee, Chris, Warren, Bob, Russell, John, Moritz, Joel, Jan, Grant, David, Joonas, Robb, Tim Dodd (the Everyday Astronaut!), Frank, Julian and Lars from Agile Space, Tommy, Adam, and seven anonymous—and 402 other supporters.

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Episode T+170: Catching Up on the News

I’m back after a few wonderful weeks offline with my newly-arrived son, Will! I figured I’d jump back in with a rundown of the important and notable bits of news that happened while I was gone.

This episode of Main Engine Cut Off is brought to you by 38 executive producers—Brandon, Matthew, Simon, Lauren, Melissa, Kris, Pat, Matt, Jorge, Ryan, Nadim, Donald, Lee, Chris, Warren, Bob, Russell, John, Moritz, Joel, Jan, Grant, David, Joonas, Robb, Tim Dodd (the Everyday Astronaut!), Frank, Julian and Lars from Agile Space, Tommy, Adam, and seven anonymous—and 402 other supporters.

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My son has arrived! Signing off for a few weeks.

Exciting news! My son was born a few days ago, and we’re all home and healthy.

I’ll be going offline for a few weeks to spend some time with him and settle into life as a parent. Feels like a good breakpoint in 2020, anyway, after the big NSSL Phase 2 awardstons of small launch newsMars launch mayhem, SpaceX DM-2, and so much else it’s hard to remember. The most recent episode of Off-Nominal with our friend Loren Grush was the perfect way to wrap things up before my break for the baby, as we talk about all those stories with some classic Off-Nominal fun infused.

During my break, I’ll be pausing the Patreon charges for September, as there will be no new podcasts or Headlines hitting your feeds. If you join during that time (which still has an upfront charge), you still get access to the Off-Nominal Discord, the back catalogue of content like Headlines, discussions as we rewatch the Apple TV+ series For All Mankind, or you could visit The Before Times with our IAC day-by-day recaps, I suppose.

I can’t promise I won’t be hanging out in Discord, tweeting, or blogging late at night, but I also won’t promise I will be, either! I’ll update you in a few weeks, and expect podcasting to resume shortly after that. Thanks for being so supportive of this single-person operation!

Episode T+169: Commercial Small Launcher Updates

There have been a ton of recent updates from commercial small launch companies, like increased payload mass and volume from Rocket Lab, contracts and funding from ABL, solved vibration issues from Virgin Orbit, and a few others. With a handful of vehicles on the verge of their first launch, it’s a good time to take a higher-level look at these competitors.

This episode of Main Engine Cut Off is brought to you by 39 executive producers—Brandon, Matthew, Simon, Lauren, Melissa, Kris, Pat, Matt, Jorge, Brad, Ryan, Nadim, Donald, Lee, Chris, Warren, Bob, Russell, John, Moritz, Joel, Jan, Grant, David, Joonas, Robb, Tim Dodd (the Everyday Astronaut!), Frank, Julian and Lars from Agile Space, Tommy, Adam, and seven anonymous—and 399 other supporters.

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Episode T+168: SpaceX and ULA Win NSSL Phase 2

The long-awaited news is finally here! ULA and SpaceX have won the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) Phase 2 launch contracts from the US Department of Defense, which leaves Blue Origin’s New Glenn and Northrop Grumman’s OmegA out in the cold. I talk through what this means for each company and launch vehicle, and where things will go from here on all sides of the issue.

This episode of Main Engine Cut Off is brought to you by 39 executive producers—Brandon, Matthew, Simon, Lauren, Melissa, Kris, Pat, Matt, Jorge, Brad, Ryan, Nadim, Donald, Lee, Chris, Warren, Bob, Russell, John, Moritz, Joel, Jan, Grant, David, Joonas, Robb, Tim Dodd (the Everyday Astronaut!), Frank, Julian and Lars from Agile Space, Tommy, Adam, and seven anonymous—and 398 other supporters.

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Thank You to July Supporters!

Very special thanks to the 437 of you out there supporting Main Engine Cut Off for the month of July. MECO is entirely listener- and reader-supported, and it’s your support keeps this blog and podcast going, growing, and improving, and most importantly, it keeps it independent.

And a huge thanks to the 39 executive producers of Main Engine Cut Off: Brandon, Matthew, Simon, Lauren, Melissa, Kris, Pat, Matt, Jorge, Brad, Ryan, Nadim, Donald, Lee, Chris, Warren, Bob, Russell, John, Moritz, Joel, Jan, Grant, David, Joonas, Robb, Tim Dodd (the Everyday Astronaut!), Frank, Julian and Lars from Agile Space, Tommy, Adam, and seven anonymous executive producers.

If you’re getting some value out of what I do here and want to help support Main Engine Cut Off, join the crew of supporters and producers! Don’t forget about Headlines, the extra weekly podcast episode that goes out to all supporters at the $3+ level.

There are other ways to help support, too: head over to the shop and buy yourself a shirt or a pair of Rocket Socks, tell a friend, or post a link to something I’m writing or talking about on Twitter or in your favorite subreddit. Spreading the word is an immense help to an independent creator like myself.

Starship SN5 Flew, So Let’s Check In on Some Predictions

Yesterday evening, Starship SN5 took a glorious flight up to 150 meters and down to its landing pad. It was a joy to watch, and other than a small engine fire that probably isn’t much to worry about, looked like a wonderfully successful test, complete with off-axis thrust, attitude control, and great sound.

It’s been almost a year since Starhopper’s flight to a similar altitude, which simultaneously feels recent and ancient. That’s a good reminder of the hectic-yet-steady, fast-yet-slower-than-hoped pace of Starship work.

On that note, back on February 28—mere days before life in the US got turned upside down—I had Tim Dodd, the Everyday Astronaut, join me for a Starship discussion on episode T+149 of the podcast. Right around the 43 minute mark, Tim posed four predictions for each of us to make.

I figured now is as good a time as any to check in on those (and I also kind of just wanted to put them in writing somewhere for easy reference). Below are the four scenarios Tim posed and a paraphrased answer from each of us.


1. Will there be a flight of one of these Serial Number 1, 2, 3, etc vehicles before the 20 kilometer attempt?

Anthony: 100% yes. Higher than Starhopper, but not that high.

Tim: Yes, very short hovers, maybe only to 20 meters.


2. When will the 20-ish kilometer flight happen?

Anthony: February 28, 2021 (a year + leap day from recording), and it will be with something like SN6 or SN7.

Tim: They will proceed immediately to the 20 kilometer hop after the short hop. End of May, 2020.


3. How many high-altitude, non-orbital flights will there be?

Anthony: They will do a 6-month-long, 1-flight-per-month-ish test campaign between the 20 kilometer flight and the first orbital attempt.

Tim: 3 non-explosive high-altitude hops before the first orbital attempt.


4. When will the first orbital attempt be?

Anthony: December, 2021

Tim: February, 2021

Episode T+167: Phillip Hargrove, NASA Launch Services Program

Phillip Hargrove, a Launch Vehicle Trajectory Analyst at NASA joins me to talk about NASA’s Launch Services Program. We discuss how LSP interacts with mission teams like Mars 2020 Perseverance, launch providers like United Launch Alliance and SpaceX, and what kind of work they tackle in their unique role tying it all together.

This episode of Main Engine Cut Off is brought to you by 39 executive producers—Brandon, Matthew, Simon, Lauren, Melissa, Kris, Pat, Matt, Jorge, Brad, Ryan, Nadim, Donald, Lee, Chris, Warren, Bob, Russell, John, Moritz, Joel, Jan, Grant, David, Joonas, Robb, Tim Dodd (the Everyday Astronaut!), Frank, Julian and Lars from Agile Space, Tommy, Adam, and seven anonymous—and 398 other supporters.

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